Healthcare costs in the United States continue to rise, with a concentration of healthcare spending focused on a small percentage of the population. In fact, about half the total healthcare spend comes from a mere 5% of patients, many of them with chronic conditions that require recurring services (and costs).
Connected health – and specifically remote patient monitoring – can help slow the growth in spending and ease the burden on providers and patients. Modern technologies that enable near-ubiquitous connectivity, reading and recording of patient statistics via sensors, and transmission of that information to connected health platforms are creating a new healthcare paradigm that can help reduce the cost of care while delivering better outcomes.
With the devices and connectivity available today, there is a wide range of trackable patient data that can be collected, recorded, and reported. Some of them can be done automatically using wearable devices, while others may require manual activation but are able to transmit data autonomously, while still others require patients to report information using online portals or mobile apps. But, combinations of vital signs can be tracked to target specific conditions, with thresholds able to be set for each that will trigger alerts when exceeded. For instance, some conditions may require heart rate and weight monitoring, while others may include respiratory rate or blood pressure or blood glucose level. The emergence of new devices will only increase the number of conditions that can be treated through RPM.
Thanks to network connectivity becoming nearly ubiquitous, wearable devices – and even many portable RPM devices – allow patients to continue recording and reporting data anywhere. This means care and treatment programs also are able to follow them wherever they go, allowing patients to continue to live normal lives while managing their health better.
Remote patient monitoring allows patients, caregivers, and providers to all remain aware of conditions and vital stats without requiring repeated office visits. Instead, most devices are designed for a simplified user experience. In the process, they also can help build a more consistent relationship between patients and providers due to the more consistent flow of patient data. They are designed to reduce disruption and maximize adherence for the best possible results, including time and cost savings for both sides.
Because patients are actively involved in their RPM programs – whether that involves actual reading or reporting of data, or simply wearing devices, they tend to have a heightened awareness of their health. The increased awareness due to real-time or regular periodic monitoring can result in patients paying more attention to the factors that influence changes in readings – and, therefore, their health – like exercise or activity levels, eating habits, medication adherence, and more. Increased patient engagement also means they are more likely to contact their physicians if anything arises that might not be quite normal – whether it triggers an alert or not.
The data recorded by RPM devices allows providers to effectively monitor patients and analyze their conditions to better and more efficiently recognize emerging trends – both progress and regression – and lets them revise treatment plans accordingly. Connected health platforms can also be set to alert providers, caregivers, and others when certain thresholds are exceeded for individual or groups of readings. In addition, while providers must adhere to data privacy regulations, anonymized, aggregate data can increase the pace of innovation in healthcare thanks to a massive influx of data from devices.
The devices and uses cases for remote patient monitoring continue to evolve. While RPM may not be the answer for every patient, it can have a positive impact on patients suffering from a growing variety of conditions – as well as the physicians and staff tasked with their care.
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